My largest problem with religious thinking is not its superstitious element and not using some god idea for comfort, but religion using the “Sanctification Cloak“. Skeptics often attack religions for silly beliefs and cognitive errors, but those are not my main concerns with religion.
Indeed, all of us suffer from cognitive and perceptual errors, not just religious people. Yet many skeptic sites accuse religious people of cognitive errors as if the skeptic themselves never fall prey to the same (see “Atheist Complicity“). This complicity itself is an ironic cognitive error on the part of the skeptic.
But even if both skeptics and religious folks are guilty of cognitive errors, skeptics have one important virtue: they do not use the deception of sanctification. It is this cloak of sanctification which I feel is one of most horrendous tools of religious rhetoric.
Sanctification means the processes of making something holy or setting it apart as special (see my linguistic footnote). It is when superstitious thinking is protected by sanctification that we enter the religion zone. Religious people sanctify their superstitions by running away from discussion declaring sacred ground — they mark their statements as “special” and outside the realm of normal debate and standard reason. To mark something as sacred, religious people use two techniques: God & Faith
When you declare that a god told you something,”God said it”, you are attempting to shut down the discussion because we are not suppose to question the gods. By declaring that a god declared some ‘truth’, you are using the sanctification cloak to stop all questioning.
Running to Faith
Some religious people will contend that their beliefs are well reasoned and begin debate until the debate gets tough or uncomfortable then they run for the escape hatch called “faith”. It may take more time than others to run to faith, but most go there. And by “faith”, they mean, “you can’t touch this”, “you can’t doubt this”, “this is special and set apart”, “this is holy”. This is also the Sanctification Cloak. The cloak is the act of hiding when debate and reason are threatening — they jump under their cloak. They run away when things get tough and bank on the word “faith” which means “untestable”. Mind you, I don’t have trouble with things being untestable — but I do have trouble with the hypocrisy of pretending that something is testable but when it comes to testing, you run for your cloak.
Again, all of us make superstitious mental errors in cognition daily. It is sanctifying them that separates the skeptic thinking from much religious thinking. A Skeptic is a person who values skeptical thinking even if they also daily commit cognitive errors that are the same as those of religious people. A Skeptic declares that they are open to correction and that nothing is sacred, that nothing is immune from reason, empirical testing and questioning. But many religious persons, on the other hand, may declare themselves to be open minded but they have sacred elements which they will not doubt and they will use the Sanctification Cloak to protect these.
Note to Skeptics
Yes, we skeptics should indeed debate all the false information that religious people proclaim, but to accuse the religious person of being stupid just because they made a cognitive error is to forget that all of us have beliefs we can not support and all of us make cognitive errors. But we can be unhesitantly harsh on the use of the Sanctification Cloak — when faith or the voice of a god is used refuse further questioning and to close discusion.
Etymology Footnotes: (FYI)
Sacred: *saq (Indo-European=”bind, restrict, enclose, protect”)–>sacrere (L)–>sanctus (L.L)
Sanctify: seintifier (O.Fr) –> sanctificare (L.L. = sanctus “holy” + facere “to make”)–> sanctify
referred to the gods or anything in their power
Holy: “Holy” predates English and Christianity. When monks first translated the Latin word “sanctus”, they used the word “holy”, since that was the closest one they knew in Old English (O.E.). I have found two possible O.E. origins of what “holy” meant prior when it was translated as the meaning for the Latin word “sanctus”:
1. Whole & Healthy : so, if something is Holy, then it can’t be broken. Thus associated with well-being and good omens. *χailaʒaz (Gmc=”Whole”)–> heil (O.H.G. & Ger.=”health”) –> hal (O.E.) –> halig (O.E. “holy”) –> holy
2. Holly: holegn (O.E.=”Holly Tree”, considered a sacred plant to both pre-Christian Celtic and Roman worship.)